Alternate Option
Thoughts from me.
Sunday, May 02, 2004 12:00 am
Video conferencing
Why is it, the people who have webcams, are the ones who are not interested in video conferencing?

I invested in an Apple iSight the day it was announced. This was used on a 800MHz iBook. I already had ADSL, and it was wonderful. My brother got one ASAP, and we sort of had a good time. Lots of hiccups. My dad, sister, and cousin eventually got theirs as well.

Now, we are a family that lives far away from each other: Singapore, UK, Malaysia, Australia—and still moving. So we thought: hey, this would be great. We all have broadband anyway.

But it seems that I’m the only one who has an iSight that’s permanently available to connect. And everyone sort of has to make an effort to drag their iSight out of its case, connect it via a single wire and plonk it on their PowerBook. OMG. It’s not like there’s a powercable, or even an Ethernet cable to fiddle with. It’s plug and play!

One of the problems is that 2 out of 10 times, it fails to work. And all that expectation goes out the window. It’s like 2 buckets of cold water (one on each end). Another problem is that, it’s just cheap enough with the current telco rates, to pick up the phone, and call the other side—No video, but good sound, no echo…

The 3rd problem is that my brother’s free time is in the car, driving, where he calls me via his mobile while on his hands free.

The 4th problem: well, we don’t sit in front of the computer all the damn day.

It’s been said before, that video conferencing is the cool tool that no one uses. I’ve seen people log on to MSN Messenger on their little PC laptops, and start voice chatting. Video is more of a symbolic thing, given it’s too jerky to do anything with. But it’s great. Communication is a fantastic thing.

MSN has the advantage of having a preinstalled base. Highly important in instant messaging. No point having the best IM tool on the planet if everyone is using something else. Apple probably chose AIM to partner with because of historic links with AOL. The only other real option was Yahoo!. Maybe Yahoo! will still be a future iChat collaborator. Now, that would kick major ass.

Anyway—it’s just sad that the people who have webcams, just won’t use them.

I just had a session today where a friend wanted to video conference. Friend is on a Mac, parents are on PCs. Friend has used iSight/iChat before, but with other Mac users. Parents are super keen to use the PC + the plethora of cheap USB webcams. So they bought one, and ball was in our court.

Well, we had to hunt down a PC, install MSN Messenger 6.1 on it, and make sure audio/video was ok. We didn’t have a webcam, so we used the Apple iSight, which surprisingly did work. But the internal mic wouldn’t work. So had to hunt for a microphone. Nil. Tried inverting a set of headphones, to see if that would work—nope.

So, I had the idea of the century, and activated audio passthrough from my iBook, and then plugged the audio out from the iBook into the PC audio in. So, now I could talk into the iBook microphone, and that would work as a microphone on the PC. Elegant, and worked well.

Tested the PC speakers, and that was ok.

Then connection time: we could see them, I think they could hear us. But nothing else. Video conferencing is so annoying in that way. People just keep repeating “hello” “hello” “can you hear us?” As if things will improve when they are horrible to start with.

So, I pissed off and said, problems not on our end, and they’ll have to fix their Windows 98 stuff otherwise I’m not interested. We’re on Windows XP, and know what we are doing.

Thing is—why is it, that it’s the people who don’t know anything about computers—that want to video conference??? Just use the telephone guys!

Grr… annoyed big time.

- Radio Paradise - eclectic intelligent rock - music info & listener community at Dana Lyons—Cows with Guns.

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